A Review of Watchmen

Have you read the graphic novel?  If you have never done so, then stop reading right now.  Seriously.  Turn off the computer, go to your nearest bookstore, buy it, and read it.  Frankly, you have no right to watch the movie without reading the book first.  Besides, you will be hopelessly lost as to what it going on.

OK, are they gone?  Good.  The rest of you can continue.  So, I shall begin with the first first question:  Is Watchmen the movie as good as Watchmen the graphic novel?  No, and it was never going to be.  Is it a good representation of the graphic novel?  Yes, and frankly, it was always going to be.

Watchmen takes place in an alternative 1985 America, with Nixon still as president and the world about to go to nuclear war.  Superheroes exist, but were outlawed in the late 1970s.  One, Rorschach, discovers a plot to murder masked superheroes, and….well, remember how I told you to read the graphic novel?  Once again, I emphasize the need to do so.

There has been a problem with many, many adaptations of famous novels.  The directors have to find the perfect balance between their vision and the vision of the original work.  People have complained about film adaptations “not following the story completely.”  Well, they really shouldn’t; otherwise their is no point to the work.  Snyder somewhat understands this.  There are materials that make this feel like a “Zack Snyder film” rather than an “Alan Moore adaptation.”  And I wanted this.  Had it been the latter, I would have been ready to crucify the film as a failure.
So, what are these elements, exactly?  Well, it could be that Snyder’s hyper styled camera work returns, as it was so prominently displayed in 300.   It could also be the astounding production design and the marvelous use of digital cameras.  Zack Snyder is quickly becoming the new James Cameron: a studio auteur who can keep intelligent themes in a modern action film.  At this point, Zack Snyder may be the only person able to direct comic book movies (although I will say I didn’t really care for 300 but this wasn’t really Snyder’s fault.)

But what else is there?  Alan Moore’s wonderful existential comments.  The maddening thing about the traditional superhero genre that is marketed toward children is that no one seems to care about the existence of super heroes.  They are merely there, like electricity and grocery stores.  Alan Moore is one of the few to ask what it would really be like.  Would people embrace them?  Would superheroes embrace themselves? Watchmen asked these questions, literally putting God on earth just to see if people would tolerate him.  Even the controversial “changed” ending helps reinforce this notion.

Ah, the ending.  This will perhaps be the most controversial part of the adaptation, simply because it was what was changed the most.  For months, people were whining about “the squid!  the squid!”  It was a fine ending for the graphic novel, and the ending actually works for the movie.  This is mainly because it makes the conflict far more international.  Alright, on 9/11, the world briefly did come together, but it didn’t last.  Within a year, we were all back to our old selves.  Any sort of peace, any sort of unity was gone.  By destroying multiple cities, it helps reinforce the peace.  However, that is not to say I do not have some complaints.  First, there are no bodies.  Part of the scene in the graphic novel had Manhattan and Laurie wading through the bodies in New York.  It was certainly chilling, and forced more debate on the issue of whether the ends truly justify the means.  The film ending almost feels to…how can I put…clean.  There are no shots that make you realize the destruction.  It looks like a Bruckheimer film.  You see ruined buildings, but so what? We “know” nothing has truly happened.  I missed that feeling in that film.  Also, the Watchmen seem all united against Ozymandius, (except Manhattan) which comes down on the debate where Moore wanted there to be some.  Like I said, it still “works” but I still prefer the graphic novel.

Alright, I am going to stop here.  Really, there is nothing more to say.  Go see it.

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